I’m talking, of course, about the HPV vaccine, which can prevent your child from getting some of the main strains of papillomavirus that can lead to cervical cancer. (If your child is not endowed with a cervix but rather the set of bits that includes a penis, you may want to consider vaccinating against HPV anyway, because 1. herd immunity is a beautiful thing, and 2. penis cancer, which can also result from the virus, is not.)
One of the main arguments against the vaccine (besides the usual trite anti-vaxxer “it’s not natural!”) argument is that the only thing stopping teenage women from going out and having All Of The Sex is the threat of cervical cancer hanging over their heads – or that somehow the act of getting them immunized will suddenly make them aware of, and highly interested in, the existence of sex. This is pretty ridiculous on its face; no one would skip mentioning the fact that cars have seat belts because kids might be less likely to drive recklessly if a traffic accident could throw them fifty feet across the highway.
And recent scientific research has found that it not only does it sound ridiculous that getting the HPV vaccine will make kids start collecting STDs like Pokemon. (Although to be fair, “Chancroid” does sound a little bit like it could be a Pokemon name.) Jezebel reports that a study published in Monday’s Journal of the American Medical Association showed that a group of 21,600 vaccinated young women had no significant difference in STD rates compared to a group of 186,500 of their un-vaccinated counterparts. This isn’t the first research to demonstrate the fact that the HPV vaccine doesn’t have an effect on kids’ sexual behaviors, but maybe if we keep stacking studies like this up, that terrible argument will finally go the way of the dodo bird. And the smallpox.
(And by the way, if someone tries to throw an anti-vax article in your face as a rebuttal, ask them how many participants were involved: a lousy twelve, like the Wakefield MMR-autism fiasco that I will not even dignify with the title of “study”? Or more than 200,000? Yeah, that’s what I thought.)
So no, getting your child protected against HPV will not send her out in search of the first virus-riddled teenage boy she can find – and even if it did, it’s certainly not worth putting he life at risk over. But, rather depressingly, only about 38% of young women in the USA are getting the vaccine – which means that 62% of our kids are still at risk for a disease that’s not much fun even if it doesn’t turn into cancer.
Long story short: Cancer sucks, vaccines are awesome, and if you have any free time today, you should whisk your daughter (or son) to the doctor and get that HPV jab.
(Image: Joe Raedle / News / Getty)